When Aizawl FC won the last edition of the Hero I-League, scripting a scintillating story, there was a certain shift of power in the national domestic league from the usual contenders to the underdogs. And little did anyone expect that the underdog story might be re-written again when the 2017-18 Hero I-League kicked-off in late November. But as the Hero I-League comes to its end with less than ten matches to go, the ‘underdogs’ might very well once again triumph over the ‘usual contenders’.
The emergence of Minerva Punjab FC and NEROCA FC in the top tier of the Hero I-League table has not only shook the structure in the domestic league for this season but captured the essence of sports – the underdog story.
“The Hero I-League is very unpredictable and that is what the last season taught us. This season, it is even more unpredictable and volatile than before as now you have two underdogs gunning for the title”, said Indian legend IM Vijayan.
“It makes the title race even more sweet and exciting to watch. Who could have expected Minerva and NEROCA to be in contention for the Hero I-League title in the starting of the season?”
“The more volatile the league is, the more exciting it gets for the players and the more thrilling it gets for the fans. There has always been a nail-biting finish of the Hero I-League season, but this one is different”, he added.
Add to the mix Gokulam Kerala FC’s sterling run where the Bino George coached the team, in the latter half of the season, defeated Mohun Bagan, East Bengal and Minerva FC on the trot, proving that underdogs should seldom be dismissed.
The Indian Arrows, on the other hand, the youngest team in the Hero I-League comprised of teenagers, time and again proved the underdog spirit of fighting and although the boys lost, the young Arrows recouped and fought again, winning some, but most importantly learning in the process.
“When an underdog team beats the favourite to win team, it captures the true essence of the sport”, IM Vijayan explains how this edition of the Hero I-league is different from the others, “It showcases how the human being can challenge adversity and still win and come on top.”
“In this edition of the Hero I-League, you have two underdogs who against all odds have come up and now are title contenders. And then you have the mid-table teams who play against top-table teams and beat them.”
“It is amazing how much nail-biting action the Hero I-League has provided and once it enters the final match day, it will only get better for the fans,“ he stated.